When he was hired as the Cardinals new defensive coordinator back in February, Ray Horton made a promise.
“I am here to say right now, the first call is going to be a blitz. No question about it.”
Seven months later, with the season opener approaching Sunday does that promise still hold true?
“We’re going to come after people. I’ve made no bones about it and we’re going to do it,” he said after practice Wednesday. “We’re going to pressure. That’s what we do and I don’t care if [the Panthers] know it. We’re coming after them.”
A fair warning perhaps to not just this week’s opponent, but the entire NFL.
The Panthers will be the first to experience the Ray Horton-led defense. That first game is never easy to game-plan and it’s made even more difficult with Carolina having a new head coach, Ron Rivera — one of eight new hires in the NFL — and a new quarterback, Cam Newton, the number-one overall pick of the 2011 draft.
“We’ve looked at all their film. We went back and looked at [Auburn] film. The kid’s a talented kid that we’re going to respect. But we’re going to respect him with pressure.”
Newton started three of the four preseason games, passing for 300 yards and a touchdown while running for 86 yards and a touchdown.
“This kid’s got a big trophy in his bookshelf somewhere from the Downtown Athletic Club,” said Horton referring to the Heisman Trophy, “so the kid’s a talented kid. He can run and if you let somebody they’re going to beat you. I don’t care who they are. Ben Roethlisberger, his rookie year (in 2004) went undefeated so just because the kid’s young doesn’t mean he can’t play.”
It’s the second straight year that the Cardinals open a season facing the number-one overall pick (2010, Sam Bradford).
Rivera and Newton will become only the fifth rookie head coach, quarterback duo since 1970 to make their debuts on the road.